Introduction

painted room
Photo: Kolin Smith
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Color changes everything. Or lack of color, if that's your thing. Point is, everyone knows you can give your drab, washed-out walls a burst of brilliant depth (or wash away your decorating sins with virgin white) just by picking up a paint can and having at them. That's the power of a coat of paint: It rearranges your reality. Which is why painting is the most oft-tackled DIY home-improvement project.

While you don't have to be a pro to learn how to paint like one, there is more to a good paint job than just slathering some color on the wall. That's where we come in. On the following pages, This Old House technical editor Mark Powers shows how to coat your walls expertly in one weekend, from the first scratch of the pole sander to the final feather of the brush. And you won't be wasting time taping off every corner or backtracking with the touch-up brush like an amateur. As long as you stay organized and methodical, you'll be able to get on with the satisfying business of transforming your room—and with it your whole outlook.

Walls: Clarksville Gray (HC-102) in eggshell; trim: Abingdon Putty (HC-99) in satin; both from Benjamin Moore
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    Tools List

    • drill
      Cordless drill, for removing and replacing door and window hardware
    • paintroller
      Paint roller for painting walls and ceilings
    • paint pan
      Paint pan, for loading roller with paint
    • telescoping extension pole
      Telescoping extension pole with pole sanding head for reaching ceilings and the tops of walls without using a ladder
    • caulk gun
      Caulking gun, for filling gaps between the woodwork and wall
    • wire brush
      Brush, roller spinner, and wire brush, for cleaning brushes
    • nailset
      Hammer and nail set, for recessing nail heads
    • synthetic brush
      Synthetic-bristle brushes (2 ½-inch blunt, 1 ½-inch angled sash, "throwaways" for touch-ups), for painting molding, doors, and windows
    • putty knife
      Putty knife for applying spackling compound
    • five-in-one tool
      5-in-1 pinter's tool for cleaning roller covers
    • utility knife
      Utility knife,
      for cutting tip of caulk gun
    • window scraper
      Window scraper and razor blades, for removing paint from window glass
    • drywall sander
      Drywall sander, attaches to shop vacuum for sanding joint-compound patches
    • paint strainer
      Paint strainer, for removing impurities when paint is poured from can into pot
    • bucket
      Bucket, to fit with liners and hold paint
    • wetdry vac
      Wet/Dry Vaccum with broom attachment

    Shopping List

    1. Paint

    A gallon of paint covers about 400 square feet. To figure how much you need, add up the lengths of all your walls, then multiply that sum by the room's height. Subtract 20 square feet for each door and 15 for each window. Divide the result by 400 to get the number of gallons you'll need for one coat. Most walls will need two coats.[BR][BR] For the trim in most rooms, one or two quarts should suffice. If your room has a lot of molding, you may need more. If you think you'll need more than two quarts, it is almost always more cost-effective to buy a gallon.



    2. 120-Grit silicon-carbide sandpaper

    Get about a dozen sheets and cut them to fit the pole sander or fold them for hand sanding.



    3. Sanding sponges

    Get three coarse-grit and three fine-grit sponges.



    4. Large cleaning sponge

    5. latex painter's caulk

    Get one tube per room.



    6. Patching compound

    To fill holes.



    7. Primer

    One quart will cover patches, but you'll need more to prime entire walls.



    8. Painter's tape or blue tape

    for protecting hardware and trim.



    9. Bucket and tray liners

    10. Roller covers

    Use a shorter nap 3/8 inch) for latex paint on smooth walls; a longer nap ([FRACTION 12]-inch and up) is best for rougher surfaces.